West Genesee Central School District School Reopening Plan for 2021-2022

Printable Version of Reopening Plan for 2021-2022

Dear West Genesee Central School District community:

We are excited to share with you our reopening plan for the 2021-2022 school year. All of our schools will welcome the return of students for five days a week of in person instruction.

Throughout the pandemic West Genesee has pulled together to meet the needs of our students and school community. When schools were closed by state officials in March 2020, West Genesee quickly shifted gears to remote learning. Our food service, buildings and grounds and transportation departments worked together to deliver meals and learning materials to students. Our teachers, teaching assistants, school counselors, psychologists, administrators, supervisors, and clerical staff worked tirelessly to meet the learning needs of our students.

We appreciate the support, trust, and cooperation of our students and families to operate schools safely during the pandemic. I certainly recognize that we have all given up a lot this past year, but as you read this reopening plan hopefully you will see that school activities are looking something closer to normal.

There are a few important safety precautions that we will need to take such as wearing a mask when inside the school building, washing our hands, practicing respiratory etiquette, and staying home when you are sick or have symptoms. The safety precautions outlined in this reopening plan were created by reviewing recommendations from Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools”, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) “COVID-19 Guidance for Safe Schools”, New York State Education Department (NYSED) “Health and Safety Guide for the 2021-2022 School Year”, and Onondaga County Health Department (OCHD) “Guidance for K-12 School Reopening”.

We are hopeful that as conditions improve that we will be able to revisit some of these safety precautions. I truly appreciate all that our students, families, and staff members have done and will continue to do to keep everyone safe and maximize learning during this challenging time.

Please be sure to:
1. Review this updated safety plan
2. Contact your principal with any questions or concerns regarding your child’s ability to return to in person learning this fall.
Thank you again for your continued trust and support!

Sincerely,

David C. Bills
Superintendent of Schools

COVID 19 Prevention Strategies Most Important for Safe In-Person Learning in K-12 Schools

1. Promoting Vaccination

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “vaccination is the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic.” The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages all eligible individuals to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

West Genesee CSD encourages all staff members and eligible students to discuss the COVID-19 vaccines with their primary care provider and consider getting vaccinated. Vaccines are readily available for eligible individuals ages 12 and up. For information on how to obtain a COVID vaccine, you can visit – https://covid19.ongov.net/vaccine/
Vaccines can be obtained at NYS vaccination locations, county locations, or retail pharmacies.

Last school year, West Genesee CSD hosted vaccine clinics for students, staff members, and families. We will continue to work with our partners at the Onondaga County Health Department to schedule vaccine clinics when students younger than 12 are deemed eligible for the vaccine.

To learn more about vaccination, visit vaccines.gov.

2. Consistent and Correct Mask Use

Currently the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics, New York State Education Department, and the Onondaga County Health Department recommend that teachers, staff, and students consistently and correctly wear a mask when indoors. The CDC recommends indoor masking for all individuals aged 2 years and older, including students, teachers, staff, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status. In outdoor settings, students, staff, and visitors do not need to wear a mask; however, individuals who are not fully vaccinated should consider wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings.

The West Genesee Central School District will require all students, staff, and visitors to wear a mask when inside of school buildings or school vehicles occupied by students, except when eating or drinking. Mask breaks will be scheduled at various intervals throughout the school day. Exceptions to the indoor mask wearing policy will be considered on a case-by-case basis for individuals who cannot wear a mask because of a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act or in cases where wearing a mask would create a risk to workplace safety. Individuals will not be required to wear a mask when participating in outdoor activities. However, non-vaccinated persons are encouraged to wear masks in outdoor settings.

When students are riding on school vehicles, all drivers and passengers are required to wear a mask at all times.

Masks will be provided for those individuals who forget to bring a mask. Masks are available in the main offices, nurses’ offices, and on school vehicles.

The district will continue to monitor transmission rates in the surrounding community and consult with the Onondaga County Health Department and state officials on the mask wearing policy. We are hopeful that when conditions in the surrounding community improve, that the mask wearing policy can be revisited.

3. Physical Distancing

The Onondaga County Health Department recommends schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms, combined with indoor mask wearing to reduce transmission risk.

The CDC recommends that schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms, combined with indoor mask wearing, to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet, such as when schools cannot fully reopen while maintaining these distances, it is important to layer multiple other prevention strategies, such as cohorting. A distance of at least 6 feet is recommended between students and teachers/staff, and between teachers/staff who are not fully vaccinated. However, the CDC also denotes several studies from the 2020-2021 school year that show low COVID-19 transmission levels in schools when other mitigation measures are in place, such as the use of masks – click here.

West Genesee CSD will encourage students to maintain a minimum distance of at least three feet during classroom activities.

The CDC states that permitting large groups of students to eat in the cafeteria should be based on community transmission rates. Schools should maximize physical distance as much as possible when students are moving through the food service line and while eating (especially indoors). Using additional spaces and outdoor seating can facilitate distancing. Schools should consider limiting meals to classrooms in areas with substantial or high transmission rates. During meal periods, students will be allowed to remove their mask when eating or drinking. Once a student has finished eating or drinking, students will be asked to resume wearing a face mask.

The district will increase other mitigation measures including when physical distancing cannot be attained such as using MERV 9A filters in all HVAC equipment with regular monitoring and changing to insure the greatest amount of filtration and airflow.

4. Screening Testing

The Centers for Disease Control defines screening testing as identifying people, including those with or without symptoms (or before development of symptoms) who may be contagious, so that measures can be taken to prevent further transmission. The CDC recommends that schools offer screening testing for students who are not fully vaccinated at least once per week in areas of high transmission. In August 2021, Onondaga County was identified as an area with a high level of community transmission.

West Genesee CSD will partner with Onondaga County to provide voluntary COVID screening testing for staff and students. Onondaga County is the recipient of a grant from the New York State Department of Health related to conducting routine surveillance testing in public schools. The current plan for screening testing as described by Onondaga County Health Commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta is to conduct optional randomized saliva pool testing in school buildings. When saliva pool testing is conducted, groups of 10-12 saliva samples are collected from students and staff to detect the presence of COVID. The testing sample will be performed by an appropriately trained individual and the sample will be obtained by rubbing a swab inside of the mouth on the inside of each cheek and under the tongue. Testing samples will be pooled together to help expedite processing time. Onondaga County is hoping to have results returned within 24 hours. In the event that a pool test yields a positive result, all individuals in that pool would be required to isolate until the specific sample that tested positive is identified. COVID screening testing will be conducted on a voluntary basis when made available by Onondaga County. Additional information, including parental consent forms, will be sent to parents when made available by Onondaga County.

5. Ventilation

The Centers for Disease Control notes that improving ventilation is an important COVID-19 prevention strategy that can reduce the number of virus particles in the air. The CDC encourages improving ventilation by bringing fresh outdoor air into the building by opening windows, making changes to the HVAC or filtration systems.

The West Genesee Central School District has been working through a series of recent Capital Projects to modernize its HVAC systems. With these changes has come the ability to monitor and adjust the amount of fresh air we bring into the buildings. We have systems in many of these new Air Handling units to sanitize our air conditioning coils.

Maintenance and Custodial staff regularly perform inspections of the HVAC systems to ensure proper operation. West Genesee CSD will be using MERV 9A filters in all HVAC equipment. MERV 9A filters maintain their efficiency throughout their full life cycle (typically 9-12 months). We will be changing these filters more frequently (2-3 times this school year) to ensure the greatest amount of filtration without sacrificing airflow. West Genesee has been recognized by Camfil for our commitment to indoor air quality and energy efficiency.

6. Handwashing and Respiratory Etiquette

Classroom teachers will emphasize the importance of proper handwashing and respiratory etiquette (covering coughs and sneezes). The CDC notes that schools should monitor and reinforce these behaviors and provide adequate hand washing supplies. Custodians will monitor bathroom and classroom sinks to make sure that faucets are functioning correctly and are regularly cleaned and sanitized. Students will be reminded to wash their hands regularly especially before or after meal periods or after using the restroom. If handwashing is not possible, hand sanitizer stations are available at various locations throughout the school and in classrooms.

7. Staying Home When Sick and Getting Tested

In accordance with CDC guidance, students, teachers and staff who have symptoms of infectious illness (influenza or COVID-19), should stay home and be referred to their healthcare provider for evaluation care and testing. Individuals who are absent from school will need to provide either a medical note or proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

Students or staff members who develop symptoms during the school day will be sent home immediately. Parents of students will be contacted immediately to come and pick up their child. Parents, guardians, or caregivers contact their healthcare provider for evaluation and a possible COVID-19 test.

The Onondaga County Health Department is working on the accessibility of symptomatic COVID testing at local schools with parental consent. When this testing is made available, parents will be provided with additional information on the process for testing symptomatic students.

The district will send out reminders on a routine basis on the importance of staying home when sick and on the symptoms of COVID 19 which, in accordance with CDC guidance, include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

The district will not be asking students and staff to fill out a daily health questionnaire and the district will not be taking student temperatures when students arrive at school. The CDC noted the limited effectiveness in symptom screening and “does not currently recommend routine (such as daily) school-based COVID-19 symptom screening of all students.” It should be noted that students should not attend school when they are sick.

8. Contact Tracing in Combination with Isolation and Quarantine

The district will continue to work with Onondaga County and NYS Department of Health representatives to complete all contact tracing and assist with notifying individuals who should monitor symptoms, isolate, or quarantine based on guidance from the local health department.

The district will report new diagnoses of COVID-19 to the local health department and submit associated contact tracing data upon request. It should be noted that any formal notice of quarantine is the responsibility of the local health department. The district will also contact families of students when exposures occur that may require symptom monitoring, quarantine or isolation.

9. Cleaning and Disinfection

According to the Centers for Disease Control, daily cleaning and disinfection is usually sufficient to remove viral particles and germs from surfaces. The district will follow standard practices and procedures for school cleaning, which include a cleaning of classrooms and disinfecting high contact surfaces each evening after school hours. Here is a link to our standard cleaning and disinfection practices – click here.

Additional Considerations

Student Attendance

School principals and nurses will continue to monitor student attendance. Schools will encourage regular on-time attendance and identify strategies and supports to assist students who are struggling with school attendance.

Social/Emotional/Mental Health Needs

West Genesee CSD will continue to keep in touch with students, caregivers and parents regarding social, emotional, and mental health needs. The district’s counselors, social workers, and psychologists will continue to identify both group and individual needs. The emotional impact on students during the pandemic has been significant. The district is using federal grant funds to secure additional staff to help address the social, emotional, and mental health needs of our students. Also, Onondaga County is working with the school to provide a school based mental health counseling services and a promise zone specialist to assist families as needs arise.

Disabilities or Other Health Care Needs

West Genesee CSD is committed to the safety of all students and staff. The district will provide accommodations, modifications, and assistance when implementing COVID-19 safety protocols. This may mean that approaches, strategies, and safety precautions may need to be adjusted for individual students or staff members based on their specific needs.

For students with documented medical needs from their physician, homebound instruction will be provided per BOE Policy 4327. Students in Grades 1-6 qualifying for medical homebound instruction will receive 5 hours of tutoring per week. Students in Grades 7-12 will receive 10 hours of tutoring per week.

Given the focus on returning as many students as possible to the classroom, West Genesee teachers will not be live streaming lessons to students learning from home. It was noted that some students excelled while learning from home but most remote students were not successful. Remote learning, via homebound instruction, will be strictly limited to students who qualify with a medical condition.

Visitors

The district will continue to review and reevaluate visitor access during the pandemic. Last school year, we were successful in welcoming parents and spectators back for outdoor athletic events and smaller audiences for indoor events, such as concerts. As scheduled events approach, we will communicate important safety information to invited parents/caregivers and spectators.

We will work with the local health department to develop protocols to welcome a limited number of spectators for indoor sporting events. The district will work with Section III and our league to determine appropriate safety protocols for welcoming spectators at indoor sporting events. For outdoor sporting events, students, staff, families, and community members are welcome to attend.

For all school visitors, please be sure to stay home when you are sick and seek medical care, regardless of vaccination status.

Emergency Closures

The district will announce on major television stations and local media when schools are closed due to inclement weather, loss of utilities or other unforeseen circumstances. The district will continue to observe traditional “snow days” so long as the district does not exhaust the three emergency closing days built into the school calendar. This means that all schools will be closed and no transportation services will be provided during emergency closing days.

In the event that schools are closed by local, state or officials due to a spread of disease or lack of available staffing resources, schools may have to shift to remote learning. Classroom teachers should be prepared to switch to remote learning quickly. In the event that schools are closed for in person learning, students will be expected to login from home and follow their normal school schedule via video conferencing tools and online learning platforms provided by the district.

Food Service and School Meals

West Genesee CSD students can receive meals at no cost throughout the school year based on recent news from the United States Department of Agriculture. We do encourage families to complete the meal application on our website to assist the district in qualifying for various grants. Having accurate information regarding the economic need in our community opens the door for additional funding opportunities for programs for our students.

Regarding meal preparation, staff should wear a mask during meal preparation and service. Students should wear masks when moving through the food service line and cafeteria.

According to the CDC, “students should not be excluded from in person learning to keep a minimum distance, including meal times.” Given the large number of students returning to school for in person instruction, physical distance during meal periods is limited to the size of our cafeteria. When possible, based on weather conditions and available staff for supervision, schools will allow students to eat outside.

School cafeterias and kitchens will be cleaned and disinfected daily. Schools will promote hand washing before and after eating, after handling garbage, or after using the restroom.

Remote Learning

For students with documented medical needs from their physician, homebound instruction will be provided per BOE Policy 4327. Students in Grades 1-6 qualifying for medical homebound instruction will receive 5 hours of tutoring per week. Students in Grades 7-12 will receive 10 hours of tutoring per week.

Given the focus on returning as many students as possible to the classroom, West Genesee teachers will not be live streaming lessons to students learning from home. It was noted that some students excelled while learning from home but most remote students were not successful. Remote learning, via homebound instruction, will be strictly limited to students who qualify with a medical condition.

In the event that schools are closed by local, state or officials due to a spread of disease or lack of available staffing resources, schools may have to shift to remote learning. Classroom teachers should be prepared to switch to remote learning quickly. In the event that schools are closed for in person learning, students will be expected to login from home and follow their normal school schedule via video conferencing tools and online learning platforms provided by the district.

Transportation

Pursuant to CDC Order, physical distancing is not required on school buses. Masks will be required for all riders and adults. Parents are always welcome to provide transportation for children.

The district will attempt to seat students who ride buses by household. Each vehicle will be cleaned and disinfected frequently. When weather conditions allow, drivers will attempt to increase airflow on school vehicles by opening windows and roof hatches.

Recess and Physical Education

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “people do not need to wear masks when outdoors” for activities such as recess and physical education. Physical education teachers will attempt to maximize outdoor spaces and activities during physical education classes. Parents and caregivers should be sure to dress students appropriately, even during the winter months, for outdoor activities during physical education classes and recess.

During indoor physical education activities, the CDC recommends that masks be worn indoors.

Sports and Other Extracurricular Activities

West Genesee CSD will work with the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, the Onondaga County Health Department, Section III and our league to develop protocols for safe participation in athletics programs for students. According to the CDC, certain high risk sports remain at increased risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 due to increased risk for getting and spreading COVID-19. Close contact sports and indoor sports are considered high risk.

For indoor sports, the district may increase physical distancing between players on the bench or spectators in the crowd. The district may also reduce capacity for spectators or not allow spectators at indoor sports based on determinations made by state or local authorities.

Supports for School Staff Members

West Genesee CSD recognizes the challenges that our school employees face in dealing with the stress of day-to-day school activities coupled with the additional safety precautions during the pandemic. We are incredibly grateful and proud of the work of our dedicated staff members. Employees who are dealing with personal or family issues can access our Employee Assistance Program by calling 315-471-1361 or 1-800-327-8764, emailing eap@ocmboces.org or visiting the program website – https://www.ocmboces.org/eap.

Emergency Operations Plans

West Genesee CSD revised the District Safety Plan to include an appendix related to Pandemic Preparedness. A copy of the final emergency response plan is available on the district website.

Vaccination Verification

The district will work with state and local vaccine providers to encourage vaccination efforts with school employees and students. The district will rely on the local and state health department to determine the vaccination status of individuals who may be considered close contacts of a positive case. Staff members or students who share their vaccination status with the school can be assured that the district will keep this information confidential and secure.

School Based Testing

The West Genesee Central School District will partner with Onondaga County to provide voluntary COVID screening testing for staff and students. Onondaga County is the recipient of a grant from the New York State Department of Health related to conducting routine surveillance testing in public schools. The current plan for screening testing as described by Onondaga County Health Commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta is to conduct randomized saliva pool testing in school buildings. When saliva pool testing is conducted, groups of 10-12 saliva samples are collected from students and staff to detect the presence of COVID. The testing sample will be performed by an appropriately trained individual and the sample will be obtained by rubbing a swab inside of the mouth on the inside of each cheek and under the tongue. Testing samples will be pooled together to help expedite processing time. Onondaga County is hoping to have results returned within 24 hours. In the event that a pool test yields a positive result, all individuals in that pool would be required to isolate until the specific sample that tested positive is identified. COVID screening testing will be conducted on a voluntary basis when made available by Onondaga County. Additional information, including parental consent forms, will be sent to parents when made available by Onondaga County.

If you have any trouble accessing the PDF documents on this page, please contact the Publications Office at publications@westgenesee.org or call (315) 487-2179.